Social Distancing and the Senior Class

Social+Distancing+and+the+Senior+Class

Angelique Gingras, Author, Editor

Spring is an exciting time for high school seniors, a season when students finish up the final weeks of their K-12 career. The change in weather anticipates a much-needed summer break. College or career plans are being finalized. Announcements are being ordered, and caps and gowns received. The stage is set for one of the most important rites of passage in one’s life. What should be an exciting time for these students, transitioning from high school to the rest of their lives, looks a bit different this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools across the nation, including Maryland, where schools closed for the remainder of this academic year May 6. Like most districts in the state, Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS) shifted to online learning April 1, ensuring students will be able to academically complete the school year.

There are designated days for each subject, and assignments are given with a manageable due date. Using the Schoology platform, students communicate with teachers, participate in discussions with peers, and turn in work. Teachers use Microsoft Teams to schedule video chats with their classes as well. CCPS seniors finished their school year online on May 15, while underclassmen will continue with virtual learning until June 15.

Many students have gained knowledge in working virtually, a skill that may not have been taught otherwise. It has been beneficial in preparing school systems for potential situations in the future that may require students to learn from home. It has taught teens a way to be connected, even if not face-to-face.

It’s a skill that Franki Costello, a senior at Huntingtown High School, is having to use as she prepares to study at McDaniel College in Westminster this fall.

“Many orientation events have been cancelled this spring,” says Costello. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to still be a part of what is happening virtually by video-chatting with counselors and future students.”

Many other seniors around the county have seen their extracurricular activities impacted. Northern High School senior Anna Grace Berry is president of the ASL club and a member of a Special Olympics team.

“This pandemic has significantly affected my daily life,” says Berry. “I feel bad that my ASL club is basically over for this year because I felt like it was finally gaining momentum… and I miss not having practice every Sunday with Special Olympics to prepare for our summer games.”

Mia Kwiatkoski, a senior at Calvert High School, had her senior lacrosse season cut prematurely. She will be attending Wingate University in North Carolina this fall on a lacrosse scholarship that requires her to meet certain physical standards by the beginning of the year.

“It feels weird not having our first game or receiving our uniforms this year, but I’m lucky I have the opportunity to play next year, even if it means conditioning on my own,” she says.

Kwiatkoski and her family have also been using this time to volunteer in the community by ordering and delivering groceries for elderly neighbors, so they can stay isolated.

As for me, a senior, I’ve been taking advantage of my time at home by creating a schedule to maintain as much normalcy as possible, including time to read, be outside, and talk to my friends, and had scheduled academic time before the school year ended. This plan has been my key to staying busy and keeping a positive outlook. 

I never could have imagined that I would have my last day in a high school classroom in March. It is sometimes difficult to think of all the events that my friends and I are going to miss, including senior breakfast, prom, and a traditional graduation ceremony, however, CCPS is doing all they can to make the end of senior year special for us. On May 15, all Calvert County seniors received special deliveries to our houses from teachers that included our cap and gown, yearbook, and a yard sign highlighting our achievement. The Board of Education is also planning both a virtual and modified in-person commencement ceremony in June.

This time has been difficult for everyone, especially for seniors trying to plan their college or career plans for the fall. The best thing I have learned through this experience is to keep a positive outlook. Even though the circumstances may be difficult now, this will certainly be a graduation that everyone will remember.

 

This story was originally published in the Bay Weekly on May, 28, 2020.